Review: BodyMedia FIT is lightweight and accurate
At a Glance
BodyMedia FIT Core Armband
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The BodyMedia FIT CORE armband is pretty intense for a fitness tracker. This lightweight armband features metal sensors that accurately track your calories burned, as well as physical activity, such as steps taken and stairs climbed. Though the CORE armband is accurate and comfortable to wear, it suffers from some issues—namely, in order to see any of your progress you have to log in to the $6.95/month BodyMedia FIT Activity Monitor. An accurate calorie-tracking armband is great, but the unforeseen monthly price tag? That is not so great.
The BodyMedia FIT CORE armband is designed for all fitness levels so this armband can be worn (and will benefit you) whether you’re dead sedentary or a hardcore athlete. However, if you really get down to it this armband is best for people who specifically want to track the calories they burn throughout the day.
Walking, running, hiking, stair climbing, and anything that gets your heart rate going are the best activities for the CORE armband. It’s also a sleep tracker, so I guess…sleeping counts as a good activity for the armband.
Design and features
The BodyMedia FIT CORE armband consists of two parts: A small, white plastic tracking device and a light gray elastic armband. The device, which we’ll call the CORE, is fairly simple—two small metal sensors on the back, a flashing light on the front, and a MicroUSB port on the left side. It snaps into a frame on the armband; the frame covers the MicroUSB port with rubbery material to ensure that sweat or rain doesn’t accidentally seep into the device.
The CORE itself is lightweight and the band fits neatly around your upper arm. The strap can be adjusted with Velcro and fits a wide range of arm sizes (it fit both me and my husband, easily). While the CORE is fairly comfortable, it’s not exactly fashion-friendly—since it’s designed to sit around your upper arm, it’s very visible if you’re wearing a short-sleeved or sleeveless shirt. (Although the company was showing off newer, more fashion friendly CORE 2 models at the 2013 International CES which it expects to hit stores later this year). Unlike other fitness sensors, such as the Fitbit Ultra or the Striiv Play, the CORE can’t be tossed into a bag or clipped unobtrusively to your belt.
The CORE tracks several statistics (calories burned, steps taken, and sleep duration) which you can check by logging onto the BodyMedia FIT Activity Tracker, a subscription-based service that corresponds with your armband. When you purchase the CORE you get three months of Activity Tracker for free; after that, you’ll have to pay $6.95/month to keep using the service.
The Activity Tracker allows you to track more than just what the armband records. For example, you can also log meals for calorie tracking, as well as weight and waist circumference. If you have a Garmin heart rate monitor (such as the Forerunner 60, Forerunner 305, Edge 305, or the Forerunner 610), then the Activity Tracker can also track your daily heart rate. The Activity Tracker also has some cool features, such as an exercise calculator (which helps you calculate approximately how many calories you’ll burn for different types of exercises).
Although the Activity Tracker is kind of expensive, it also has a pretty nice food log if you’re counting calories. The food log lets you save frequently-used foods, as well as create foods and recipes so that you can quickly log meals without having to re-calculate calories every time. There’s also a decently extensive food database with lots of foods (and their corresponding numbers) already listed.
The Activity Tracker (and the CORE armband) also work with the BodyMedia FIT app, which is available for both Android and iOS devices. However, since the CORE armband does not have built-in Bluetooth, this app only lets you see daily numbers after you’ve synced the device with the server (by physically plugging it in via MicroUSB). It does let you log meals directly from your phone, which is a plus.
The bottom line
The BodyMedia FIT CORE’s biggest strength is its ability to accurately track calories burned. Unlike other fitness trackers, which estimate calories burned using an algorithm of steps and weight, the CORE uses its special sensors to track not just your activity but also your body’s reaction to that activity. This makes it much more accurate as a calorie tracker, so you can realistically see how many calories you’re burning (and, subsequently, how many calories you can eat if you’re trying to maintain, gain, or lose weight).
In other words, it’s great for people who have both discipline and a specific weight goal.
However, it’s got some major drawbacks—the biggest being the subscription-based Activity Tracker. Because the CORE does not display any information on the device itself, you'll need to purchase the $6.95/month Activity Tracker for it to be a viable product. You can opt to purchase a $69 optional display, which syncs with the CORE and lets you see a quick view of progress toward your daily goals, but you’ll still need to purchase the Activity Tracker if you want to see overall charts and trends.
Considering the CORE already costs $119, this is a sizable detraction. Other activity trackers at least offer up the basic data for free. Without the Activity Tracker, the CORE is pretty useless, so you have to factor this into the total cost. The LINK armband, which is $149 and comes with built-in Bluetooth so you can track your goals on your Android or iOS device, also requires an Activity Tracker subscription.
Other drawbacks of the CORE FIT include its lack of built-in Bluetooth, which makes the mobile app somewhat useless (what’s the point of being able to see your data only after you cable-sync the device with your computer?), as well as its upper-arm position. The company says that the upper arm is where they get the most accurate, raw data, which makes sense—it’s just not very lifestyle-friendly if you’re looking to wear this armband everywhere. But like most trackers, you'll likely get used to wearing it.
Overall, the CORE is an interesting product. If you’re looking to lose (or gain) weight, the CORE is a very accurate calorie tracker—perfect for the calorie-obsessed fitness fiend. But the Activity Tracker subscription adds quite a bit to the price—and if you don’t purchase it, your device is basically useless.